Monday, October 13, 2008

Family make the worst patients

I'm not sure if this is universal, but in my personal experience and those of my close friends and colleagues, your own family members and close family friends are always the worst patients.

Maybe it's because the transition from 'lay person' to doctor happens in front of them so they don't view you as a real doctor, but invariably, when they ask you for advice, they don't take you seriously and they don't bother to take it. It's quite frustrating because you think "why did they bother to ask?" but after a while you just get used to it, shrug your shoulders, shake your head and brush it off.

And they tend to be non-compliant. My dad has essential hypertension. He's had it for years. Still, he tends not to take his meds on time and sometimes even skips a few days. Two of my uncles have type II diabetes mellitus yet still continue to eat poor diets, but not only that, all their kids are obese! If I were faced with such a terrible affliction, I'd make damn sure my kids don't get it, but it's like they're making sure their kids do! All advice falls on deaf ears.

Then there are the phone calls saying they have x, y and z signs and symptoms. You ask a few questions to guage the severity, but whenever you think it might be something serious and suggest they go see a doctor in person to be examined, they say they don't think it's necessary. So why did they ask you wonder once again? But it's pointless trying to get them to listen to you.

And whenever you suggest a certain treatment or specialist, you're invariably faced with "but can't I just do this or use that?". "No" you say. They never listen.

A close family friend told me she had a personal problem. "Yes?" I asked and listened. "I have a painful swelling on my vagina", she told me. Knowing her personally, I wasn't keen to examine her, but she gave me enough information for me to make the tentative diagnosis of a Bartholin's abscess. I told her what I suspected the problem was, advised her to see a doctor asap and told her it would have to be cut open. "But can't I just put antiseptic ointment on it?" she asked. "No" I replied. She didn't listen. About 4 days later, in the middle of the night of course, the pain apparently became completely unbearable and her husband had to rush her to casualties. I laughed when I heard this. She was probably seen by some poor casualties officer who wondered why she had waited so long and until the middle of the night. I'd often wondered that myself whilst draining an abscess in the wee hours of the morning, now I seemingly had the answer.

But what can you do? They're family, so when they ask, you have to listen and advise, even if you're smiling to yourself knowing they won't listen anyway and wondering once again why they even ask and why you even bother.


Dragonfly said...

That is so true....I get that a LOT even though I haven't graduated yet. On my grandmothers deathbed (lung cancer after 60 years of smoking), the year before I got into medical school, my aunt was telling her "Its ok, Dragonfly is going to be a doctor". Literally 5 minutes before she passed......
Setting boundaries with my family into the fact that I can't give them medical advice is interesting (and not always respected).

Dragonfly said...

Btw hope your last week goes well...

amanzimtoti said...

Thanx Dragonfly :)